Thursday, June 30, 2005

So, why didn't the troops applaud?

There were a lot of applause lines in the President's speech Tuesday night, but the troops at Fort Bragg didn't applaud.

Why not?

Just following orders, the Republicans say.

They were asleep, the Democrats say.

Probably still worth Bush's time to have the photo op, but next time you can bet there will be a different set of orders.

Washington Post story.

Things Could Be Worse Dept.

Minnesota's state fiscal year ends on June 30, just like Wisconsin's.

But there's a huge difference. In Wisconsin, if there's no new budget by July 1, government keeps operating at the same level until the new budget becomes law.

In Minnesota, the government shuts down.

With 12 hours to go, there was no agreement yet. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.

WORD FOR THE DAY: Racino. That's one of the sticking points. And what's a racino? A racetrack with slot machines, of course.

UPDATE: Minnesota government shutting down. Story.

And the winner is ...

The Xoff Files, blog of the week on MKEonline.

I'd like to thank all of the little people who helped make this possible. I'll never forget you. You really, really like me.

Apparently our get-out-the-vote campaign was effective. The website reports that every vote cast on the final day was for the Xoff Files, which was already leading before that.

The machine delivered.

This award and $3 will get me a latte, I am told.

StemPAC: A new tool in the struggle

Fight Back for Stem Cell Research

For nearly five years, the promise of stem-cell research has been held hostage by ignorance and ideology. Hope for our loved ones has been delayed, and suffering has been needlessly prolonged, because of the power of a small group of political extremists.

It's time to fight back. It's time to take a stand against irrational federal and state laws that hinder stem-cell research. And it's time to go on the offense against the politicians who support such laws.

StemPAC is being formed right now to help lead this fight. If you would like to learn more, or want to help in this effort, please:

1) Send a letter to your Senators today;

2) Tell your story: Why do you support stem cell research?

3) Volunteer to help with StemPAC

4) Tell friends about StemPAC

Keeping it simple, stupid

Steven Pizzo at Alternet writes:

Virtually all of George W.'s behavior in office can be explained by one single event: being saved. Complexity had driven George to drink. In simplicity he found peace, self-confidence and salvation.

"Suddenly life's complications, choices and confusions were culled down to a handful of easy-to-understand instructions. Life's once-intimidating blank canvas was transformed to a paint-by-numbers set. He now not only knew what the picture was, but all he had to do was not mix his colors to end up with a perfect painting every time.

"So here we are, five years after electing un-curious George to the highest office on earth. He has been true to his evangelical mindset, not just in his adherence to his Christian faith, but in his public policies as well. It is that behavior that has led the press to call him stubborn.

"Global warming, stem cell research, war, Terry Schiavo, evolution -- each are issues about which volumes have, and will, be written. But George W. will not -- cannot -- be moved by a single word. Being saved taught Bush that the key to keeping his personal demons at bay is to narrow the flow of information to a trickle. Establish certainty -- the simpler the certainty, the better. Keep it simple, stupid. Then don't just stick to that certainty, but evangelize it. Others must be saved, too. "

There's more. Read it here.

Plasma TVs are new "Welfare Cadillacs"

You won't be seeing a plasma television set in any state building anytime soon.

Plasma TVs have become a symbol of extravagance to public officials -- and perhaps the public -- in Wisconsin.

If you doubt that, consider the avalanche of criticism over the plans of WisconsinEye -- the state's answer to C-Span -- to install a plasma TV in the offices of all 33 State Senators. (I don't know what they were going to do for the Assembly; no one there has piled on yet.)

State Sen. Cathy Stepp, a Racine Republican who's in a targeted seat next year started things rolling with a press release and letter to State Sen. Dale Schultz, GOP majority leader, declaring that, "I will not, under any circumstances, allow a plasma television to be installed in my office." That was good for a pretty big hometown news story.

Schultz quickly said that Senate offices will not get plasma TVs . "There are not going to be monitors in our offices," Schultz told Republican senators before they went into a closed-door session to resume work on the proposed state budget, the Journal Sentinel's political blog reported.

Gov. Jim Doyle jumped in, too, using it as a launching pad to attack the Republican state budget: "What a cruel irony that on the same day that the Senate is preparing to adopt a budget that would cut education by $400 million, they are considering giving themselves 33 plasma TVs. If the Senate goes through with this, it just shows how seriously out of step they are with average Wisconsin families.

"I agree with Republican Senator Cathy Stepp, who blew the whistle on this contract: most Wisconsin citizens can't afford plasma screen TVs for their own home - and there is no reason we need to give them to Senators. Instead of focusing on how they can get plasma TVs for themselves, Senators should be focused on passing a budget that protects education and freezes property taxes," Doyle said.

WisconsinEye, for the record, is a non-profit organization which has been raising money and negotiating for five years in hopes of beginning its live coverage of the legislature. The plasma TVs would not have been paid for by the taxpayers. But no matter; that is totally irrelevant in the heat of the moment.

So, you may wonder -- especially if you don't live in southeastern Wisconsin -- how did plasma TVs become the symbol of excess in government?

The Muskego-Norway School Board gets the credit, or blame.

After a building project supported by a 2001 taxpayer referendum was completed, some money was left for furnishings and equipment, and one of the things it went for was to buy eight 42-inch plasma TVs for the Muskego High School cafeteria at a cost of $51,000.

When they were installed in March, some taxpayer eyebrows were raised, and complaints were made to the school board and to talk radio, where it became a cause celebre.

After the uproar subsided, the school district decided to keep the TVs, since they could be sold only for a fraction of what they cost. But school officials took steps to assure taxpayers nothing like that could ever happen again. Journal Sentinel story.

So, when word surfaced of the plan to put plasma TVs in State Senate offices surfaced, the officeholders freaked. Not coincidentally, Stepp's district includes Muskego.

In days of old, conservatives loved to complain about "welfare Cadillacs" driven by people on the dole, or tell stories about the woman in the checkout line with a cartful of T-bones, paid for with food stamps.

If only we hadn't "ended welfare as we know it," the neocons could rail against the welfare recipients with plasma TVs. Instead, they're having to turn their attention to government spending -- and sometimes that hits a little too close to home.

Introducing Wonkster -- Napster for policy wonks

Just what I was hoping for.

Now you can get the same policy papers members of Congress often use to get up to speed on an issue -- for free.

The Center for Democracy and Technology has created an online database of Congressional Research Service reports.

I don't think you'll find me at that site very often, since I try very hard to stick to my self-imposed rule of one fact per item I post on this blog -- no more, no less. A second fact often confuses people, I've found, and sometimes even offers conflicting information. What kind of self-respecting blogger would do that?

Anyway, you can find the CRS reports at Open Here's the Washington Post story about it.

Mark Green wants 'victory' in Iraq

It sounded at first, from the headline below, like maybe Rep. Mark Green was declaring victory in Iraq. That wouldn't be a bad idea. Sen. George Aiken of Vermont offered that suggestion about Vietnam when the US was stuck in a quagmire -- "Declare victory and get out."

But, actually, Green is declaring, it appears, that he is part of a "Victory in Iraq" caucus in the Congress. What will constitute a victory? Does he think we will "win" before the 2006 election for governor?

Or is he just standing by his man, President Bush? (Might not want to stand too close. A Capitol Opinion poll done a week ago found Bush with a 44-52 favorable-unfavorable split. But the negatives include 41% who said their opinion of W was "strongly unfavorable." Let's hope for more Green photo ops with the Pres.

This from the June 28 Green Sheet, his e-mail campaign newsletter

DC Update: Victory in Iraq

Hopefully, you are planning to tune in tonight (or already have) to listen to President Bush discuss the situation in Iraq. It is once again in vogue with liberals and their friends in the media to attack our efforts to make our nation and world a safer place though a democratic Iraq.

As we've reported in the past, Mark was in Iraq about a month ago and saw for himself both the progress being made and the challenges that remain there. Most importantly, Mark reported back that too many of our brave men and women in uniform are frustrated that their successes are largely ignored by the press while every setback is given ample attention.

Now, some in Congress have gone so far as to set up an "Out of Iraq Caucus" with the sole intent of forcing the President to pull our troops out of Iraq without regard for the consequences. Mark's counter to this misguided effort? He and Rep. Joe Wilson have formed the "Victory in Iraq" Caucus to give he and his colleagues another avenue to show support for our troops and the good work they are doing in Iraq.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Canada legalizes same-sex marriages

This remarkable story from the National Post, Canada's answer to USA Today, by Alexander Panetta. (Emphasis mine, of course. Makes you wonder what that Charter of Rights has that our Constitution and Bill of Rights doesn't have.)

OTTAWA -- It was fought in courtrooms, in legislatures, in street protests, and one of the most turbulent debates in Canadian history was settled Tuesday with a vote in Parliament.

The House of Commons voted 158 to 133 to adopt controversial legislation that will make Canada the third country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.

Several liberals marked the occasion by invoking the memory of their party's philosopher king, Pierre Trudeau.

It was the late liberal prime minister who decriminalized homosexuality in 1969, and whose Charter of Rights and Freedoms became the legal cudgel that smashed the traditional definition of marriage.

Barely two years ago, the Liberal government was still fighting same-sex couples in courts across the land.

It changed its tune amid an onslaught of legal verdicts in eight provinces that found traditional marriage laws violated the charter's guarantee of equality for all Canadians.

"(This) is about the Charter of Rights," Prime Minister Paul Martin said earlier Tuesday.

"We are a nation of minorities. And in a nation of minorities, it is important that you don't cherry-pick rights.

"A right is a right and that is what this vote tonight is all about."


Feingold: Give us candor and clarity on Iraq

Senator Russ Feingold on The Huffington Post:

"With the country listening, the President had the chance to finally give our troops and the American public some sense of when he believes this conflict in Iraq will be over and when our brave men and women in uniform will come home. Instead, the President urged us to remember the lessons of 9/11. But it is with those lessons in mind that I oppose the Administration's current approach to Iraq. The President keeps talking about staying the course, but what the American people really want is candor and clarity about where this course is taking us."

50 states plus 72 counties for Feingold?

The most likely reason Sen. Russ Feingold won't run for president in 2008: His pledge, which he has kept faithfully since taking office in 1993, to visit all 72 Wisconsin counties every year for town meetings.

He held his 900th Sunday in Winnecone. It is great for keeping in touch with the folks back home, and his annual presence in every nook and cranny in the state no doubt helped him in his relatively easy re-election campaign last year.

But Feingold also talks about a 50-state effort for Democrats to win the presidency.

Seventy-two Wisconsin counties and 49 other states sounds a little ambitious, even for Feingold. Florence County, Wisconsin and Chickasaw County, Mississippi? Pity the scheduler -- or the candidate -- who tries it. Do you think the Wisconsin voters would give him a reprieve for a year in 2008?

MoveOn commercial on Iraq features Hagel

MoveOnPAC has started to run a new television commercial on the Iraq war, featuring quotes from a Republican Senator, Chuck Hagel.

To see the ad -- and contribute to keep it on the air, if you are so inclined -- go to

The old double standard, still at work

The question of whether tax money should go to support child care centers continues to be an issue for Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature.

They have managed to be on both sides, depending upon whose ox is being gored, or whose program is being funded.

When the budget for Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) was approved Tuesday, Rep. Suzanne Jeskewitz, a Menomonee Falls Republican, blasted the budget, which raises the tax levy more than 6%. But she zeroed in on a $1.24 million allocation to subsidize child care centers on each of the MATC campuses, challenging it as a misuse of tax dollars, the Journal Sentinel reported.

It's been an issue since the Legislative Audit Bureau took a look at MATC in 2003 and its audit mentioned, almost in passing, the child care centers operated by MATC. Costs were increasing (no surprise) and $1-million was budgeted for 2002-03.

When the audit was discussed at a legislative committee hearing, some of the Republican lawmakers like Jeskewitz and State Sen. Carol Roessler, who co-chaired the audit committee, questioned why MATC would be spending money from the property tax levy for child care. State Sen. Alberta Darling chimed in, too.

Why spend tax money to subsidize child care? asked the GOP.

After it was explained that the award-winning centers both provide child care for children of students and serve as learning labs for people in MATC's early childhood program, things settled down a bit.

But the MATC administration has used those comments from GOP lawmakers to go after the program and seek to cut budgets for child care. A $300,000 cut was proposed last year but eventually restored. But the struggle on the issue is ongoing.

So imagine the surprise of MATC students and faculty members when the Republican-run Joint Finance Committee, in one of its middle of the night sessions, put $1-million in the budget to operate a private, non-profit child care center in Milwaukee.

The money will go to the Next Door Foundation, which apparently had raised enough money to build its new Educare center, but not enough to operate it.

The Joint Finance Republicans, of course, were in no mood to increase spending, so that million dollars had to come from somewhere. So they cut $1 million dollars for at risk children from the Milwaukee Public Schools budget and gave it to the Next Door Foundation to run its center. (This was an extra million taken from MPS, in addition to the $40 million cut they had already imposed.)

The Next Door Foundation has a good reputation for providing needed services to children in the central city. That's not the question.

But the decision left some MATC faculty and staff members scratching their heads. Why isn't it an issue to give tax money for a child care center in this case?

Could it be the Republican connections of the Next Door Foundation board? Some conspiracy theorists at MATC certainly think so. The board is made up of some well-connected people, to be sure, many of who give to GOP candidates. But I will leave it to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign or Common Cause to use the pejorative words. They see BRIBE written on every dollar that goes to a candidate, and there are plenty of them in this case.

Whatever the reason, it is a total about-face for the Republicans. It should take some of the heat off the programs at MATC, but judging from Jeskewitz's comments Tuesday night, the GOP hasn't gotten the word out that it is now for tax-subsidized child care.

Republicans take no prisoners

Being a member of the Republican majority in the Wisconsin Legislature must be akin to being a citizen of Singapore, where public caning is a punishment for even small infractions.

State Sen. Mary Lazich of New Berlin wandered off the GOP reservation Tuesday, saying (it seemed) like she could not vote for the state budget she voted for as a member of Joint Finance not too long ago. Story.

The budget hasn't changed, but Lazich says she has more information now than she had at 6:15 a.m., after one of those infamous all-night sessions, when a punch-drunk committee exhausts itself and finally passes something before falling asleep. And she thinks it spends too much.

The problem for the GOP is that two other Senators, Mike Ellis and Robert Cowles, already have said they will vote no on the budget. That leaves 16 votes, but it takes 17 to pass.

State Sen. Dale Schultz, the majority leader whose job is to herd the cats in his caucus, didn't go off on Lazich, presumably because he still hopes to get her vote. (Those who flip sometimes flop back, after all.)

But Speaker John Gard let it rip. "It's like she's actually working for Jim Doyle," Gard said of Lazich. "She wants people to believe she was sleeping while the committee was actually voting on the budget." (Cut her some slack. Maybe she was sleeping. It was 6:15 a.m)

Lazich fired right back, saying Gard should "do a better job of leading" and questioning whether "John Gard actually approves of this level of spending. It's up to the Senate to do better." In other words, Gard and the Assembly GOP screwed up.

Lazich already is in trouble with her party's right wing because she supported Schultz for majority leader, who the conservatives see as too moderate. Worse, she said she had voted for Schultz's conservative opponent, Scott Fitzgerald. She ended up taking a lot of heat, especially from talk radio, and stepped down from her role as assistant majority leader.

On her latest maneuver, Lazich nemesis Charlie Sykes of WTMJ radio says: "However you feel about the budget, this is pathetic. . . Bottomline here: she votes for the budget in committee, says she didn't know what she was doing, and flip-flops when it comes to the floor. The term "Pulling a Lazich" has officially entered the political lexicon.

For Democrats, there is nothing like a ringside seat. Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall in the Republican Senate's closed-door caucus on the budget today?

UPDATE: Conservative blogger Dennis York gives Lazich more than a few lashes. Link

Grover Norquist, live and uncensored

From the Washington Post's Names and Faces:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) became a target in the latest round of political rhetoric when Republican strategist Grover Norquist referred to him last week as "the nut-job from Arizona."

At the College Republicans convention in Arlington on Friday, Norquist also referred to Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) as "the two girls from Maine," according to the Dallas Morning News.

Norquist backed away from his "girls" comment yesterday, telling The Post's Brian Faler that he did not mean to be derisive. "It was not meant that way. We were talking to a bunch of college kids," he said.

As for McCain, Norquist said he "misspoke" and added, "I meant to say gun-grabbing, tax-increasing Bolshevik."

Mark Salter, a senior adviser for McCain, issued a statement that said, "John McCain hasn't spent five seconds in his entire life thinking about Grover Norquist. He's not going to start now."

NAS publishes the "Milk Bomb Secret"

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the government's suppression of a scientific paper warning of threats to the nation's milk supply, and how a terrorist could get toxins into the milk we drink.

The government called the paper "a roadmap for terrorists" and persuaded the National Academies of Science to withhold publication, scheduled for May 30.

After further review, NAS published the paper on Tuesday. Dr. Bruce Alberts, the academy's president, said that the academy decided on publication only after meeting with Health and Human Services officials and considering the potential danger. He wrote an online editorial posted with the paper.

"All of the critical information in this article that could be useful to a terrorist," Dr. Alberts wrote, is "immediately accessible on the World Wide Web through a simple Google search," today's New York Times reports.

I wrote earlier of parallels with the 1979 case against The Progressive, when the government stopped publication of an article, "The H-Bomb Secret." Then, as now, the article eventually was published, in large part because all of the information it contained already was public.

Terrorists who want to know how to poison the milk supply can go here to read the paper.

Previous post,"Threats to America's Dairyland: Toxins in the Milk, The H-Bomb Secret."

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bush speech drinking game

This from William Rivers Pitt at Truthout:

"Tonight should be interesting. If I were still in college, I'd propose creating a drinking game based on this speech. Drink a beer after every lie. Drink a beer every time Bush says "freedom," or talks about September 11 as if those attacks had anything to do with Iraq. Drink two beers after every wildly unrealistic assessment that has no basis in fact. Drink a beer and a shot every time he says "Nukular." Two beers, a shot and a kick to the head every time he thanks the troops around him for the sacrifices "we" know must be made. Anyone still standing after ten minutes wins a Kewpie doll."

Walker: 'County exec duties' call

This sounds like a parody, but it is the real thing. Scott Walker, on his campaign blog, pretending that a taxpayer-financed trip on a Harley, to every media market in the state, is something he's required to do as part of his county exec job. So he'll "have to be off the campaign trail for a few days."

How dumb does he think people are? Here's my earlier take on "Scott Walker's Free Ride."

Walker for Governor Blog
June 25, 2005
County Exec Duties

From Saturday, June 25 through Thursday, June 30, I will be riding around the state on the trusty Harley-Davidson Road King. It is our part of our 2005 Executive's Ride to promote tourism attractions in our county - everything from the parks, to the zoo, to the lakefront, to the state fair to Miller Park to Miller Brewing Co. About 50 bikers are going with on the entire trip and many more are meeting us in each city.

Since the ride is an official function, I will not be spending time on the campaign trail this week. Look for word from the blog next week and from updates from our blog staff while I am out on the road.

In addition to raising awareness our tourist attractions, this year we are also raising support for the families of our men and women in uniform. Details on the ride can be found

- Scott

UW: Last Kiss on campus

When i first saw that headline on the news release online, I thought the anti-sex caucus in the legislature, not content with banning birth control, had introduced a new bill to get at the root cause of pregnancy: Kissing.

Turns out, thankfully, it was something else:

This week, Lakeshore Entertainment, the production company that made the Oscar-winning film "Million Dollar Baby," will shoot several scenes on campus and downtown for its new movie "The Last Kiss."

David Clarke: Shut up or lose your stripes

Just in case you thought Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke didn't have a sense of humor:

The deputies union doesn't like the way Clarke has been making promotions, giving people temporary promotions that he can then take away if they don't toe the line and march in lockstep with him.

One of the deputies who had been temporarily promoted to sergeant testified before the Milwaukee County Civil Service Commission against a new promotion system Clarke wanted to put into place.

What happened next? You probably guessed this. The day after his testimony, the sergeant was given a choice by Clarke -- take a demotion or resign. Pretty funny, huh?

At least, those are the claims in a lawsuit filed against Clarke by the union, as reported in the Journal Sentinel.

Incredibly, Clarke's response was to attack deputies and blame them for the mistaken release of a convicted murderer last week. "It would be more helpful if the Deputy Sheriffs' Association board would . . . work with me on matters of mutual concern, such as making sure prisoners aren't improperly released," he said.

Nice try, sheriff, but the buck stops at your office. The prisoner was released on your watch. How about taking some responsibility and showing some leadership, instead of engaging in the finger-pointing for which your friend Scott Walker is famous?

Poll: It was a mistake, but made us feel more

secure, so let's stay in Iraq for the long haul

As President Bush prepares to address his fellow Americans, here's what a Washington Post/ABC News poll finds his fellow Americans are thinking:

*** Going to war in Iraq was a mistake (51-48%)

*** The war has contibuted to the long-term safety of the US (52-46%)

*** The US will need to keep troops in Iraq for at least a few years longer (62%, including 23% who think it will be five years or longer.

*** The number of US troops should stay the same (44%) or increase (16%).

Here's the whole thing. Read it and weep.

Wisconsin's image and economy at risk,

pioneer stem cell researcher warns

Jamie Thomson offers direct, candid view of anti-research efforts

Wisconsin is in danger of being known as the home of some well-meaning but backward yokels who are anti-science, if the state persists in taking action to prevent or stifle embryonic stem cell research.

The results? "(O)ur state's economy will be left behind ...Restrictive legislation in the area of stem cell research will create a perception that this state is generally hostile to science. Technology companies will locate in other states, and top faculty candidates will go to other universities."

Who says so?

James (Jamie) Thomson, the UW-Madison biologist who was the first scientist to isolate and culture human embryonic stem cells. Thomson's breakthrough put Wisconsin on the cutting edge of stem cell research. But it also set off some controversy and repeated attempts by conservatives to pass legislation to stop it.

"The current attempts at legislation here are known nationally, and the response in the scientific community outside this state ranges from bewilderment to contempt," Thomson said in a letter to legislators.

In a remarkable, candid exchange with the sponsor of a bill to restrict the research, Thomson said:

"I was born and grew up in the Midwest, but subsequently studied both on the east and west coasts. I therefore know first hand that there is a strong impression on both coasts that the middle of the country is an intellectual void.

"If a T.V. sitcom takes place in either L.A. or New York, and the writers want to introduce a character that is a well-meaning yokel, they often put a T-shirt on him with "Wisconsin" printed on the front to establish his character.

"It has been a great source of pride to me that the publicity surrounding human embryonic stem cells and its universal association with Wisconsin has helped to remove that T-shirt.

"Please be absolutely clear: any legislation that impacts basic science that is more restrictive than current federal legislation will only help put that T-shirt back on."

And you thought researchers were ivory-tower eggheads who can only write scientific papers?

Thomson's letter was prompted by an e-mail to legislators from State Rep. Steve Kestell, sponsor of a bill to ban cloning, including therapeutic cloning for stem cell research, which has passed the Assembly and is in the State Senate this week.

Kestell urged lawmakers to read an online interview with Thomson at MSNBC. His message:

From: Rep.Kestell
Sent: Friday, June 24, 2005 3:14 PM
To: *Legislative Everyone
Subject: James Thomson Cloning Interview
Importance: High

Dear Members of the Legislature,

I have attached a link to an interview that Dr. Thomson gave to MSNBC this week. It is fascinating reading and clearly shows that Dr. Thomson is an honorable man who has given great thought to the ethical questions surrounding his work.

I encourage everyone to read the entire article and pay extra attention to his remarks about Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (cloning). Dr. Thomson understands the implications and also expresses a concern that has been recently denied by representatives of our own University, that once a cloned embryo is created for research purposes, it is virtually indistinguishable from any other embryo and could be implanted.

Dr. Thomson goes on to talk about the overdone hype used by proponents (and opponents) of research and encourages honest discussion rather than deception.

In this interview, Dr. Thomson talks about separating the debate over cloning and other forms of stem cell research - This is exactly what AB 499 allows us to do.

Rep. Steve Kestell

Thompson said he meant nothing of the sort:

"In my recent MSNBC interview I tried to give an honest assessment of the state of stem cell research. It troubles me that my words could be used to support a ban on a particular area of research that many scientists find promising. I merely attempted to point out that in going forward, separating the issue of using existing frozen embryos that would otherwise be discarded, from the issue of nuclear transfer or so-called therapeutic cloning makes public policy sense, as there is a remarkable degree of public consensus on the first issue, and considerable public disagreement on the second issue. However, banning an area of research is another matter entirely.

Thompson closes with this personal observation:

"On a personal note, I am saddened and disappointed by my state legislature. A few years ago, California surpassed Wisconsin in dairy production. Now, although stem cell research is most strongly associated with Wisconsin, my own state legislature seems determined to make sure that stem cell research follows a similar trajectory. I just returned from a national stem cell meeting in San Francisco with over 2200 stem cell researchers, and it is no accident that the organizers chose California over Wisconsin as their meeting site.

" Although I know stem cell research remains controversial in our state, I do still hope that our state legislature can find a way to help the research go forward and ultimately benefit the people of Wisconsin. Creating legislation that is more restrictive than federal regulations is not the way to do it."

That's the warning from a leader in the field. Is anyone listening?

UPDATE: Kestell backs off a little. In response to Thomson's letter, Kestell sent a letter to lawmakers making it clear he was not suggesting that Thomson supported Kestell's anti-cloning bill, although his language could have left leggies with that impression. He also took a shot at Thomson and UW for what he calls "faulty and misleading testimony and heavy-handed lobbying."

Kestell may be enjoying the publicity, but, as Brian Clark correctly notes in a story on, Thomson -- Time magazine cover and MSNBC interview notwithstanding -- is usually a private person. It is highly unusual for him to take on this public debate, which is an indicator of how strongly he feels that Wisconsin is making a huge mistake.

Quote, unquote

"They've got a brand new facility down at Guantanamo. We spent a lot of money to build it. They're very well treated down there. They're living in the tropics. They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibly want." -- Vice President Dick Cheney.

Primary, Green challenges for Doyle?

John Nichols at the Capital Times can hardly contain his glee that the left wing -- in Democratic Party, Green Party, independent or all the above -- may challenge Gov. Jim Doyle next year.

Nichols thinks (hopes, actually) that Doyle may get both a Dem primary challenge and a Green opponent in November.

He dismisses Black's musing about a run as "little more than a summer flight of fancy," since Black is a Democrat who may want to continue his political career and eventually run for the State Senate.

But the Greens "already have a solid statewide network of activists, a track record of running credible fall campaigns and a disdain for Doyle's compromises that guarantees they'll place a gubernatorial candidate on the 2006 ballot," he says.

"When all is said and done, it is extremely likely that Doyle will face a Democratic primary challenger in September 2006. And that opponent, even if he or she is unable to match the governor's campaign fund, will win a solid vote from Democrats who - while they might ultimately vote for Doyle in a November contest against a conservative Republican - will want to register their disappointment with a Democrat who too frequently has governed like a cautious and conservative Republican," Nichols says.

Well and good, it's a free country, anyone can run, bring it on, etc. etc.

But Nichols fails to address one nagging question that should bother Democrats, liberals, and even far-lefties: Will those challenges, while allowing the self-proclaimed keepers of the "progressive" flame to feel good, perhaps siphon enough votes from Doyle to elect a Republican.

If Nichols thinks Doyle has "governed like a conservative Republican," wait until he sees a real one in the governor's office. Let's hope that is not 2007. Nichols column.

Earlier Xoff take on the subject

Monday, June 27, 2005

Sensenbrenner spars with constituents

at town meeting in Pewaukee; with audio

Rep. F. Jim Sensenbrenner, who's been all over the national news in recent weeks, both for his extreme views and for his extremely offensive behavior, brought his act home to Pewaukee Sunday night.

Sensenbrenner's town hall meeting drew some constituents with questions, and at least one blogger, but apparently no one from the news media. (If any of this has been reported, I haven't seen it.)

Here's the report, via The audio clips are of poor quality, although #2 is better.

Sensenbrenner Yells At Constituents (With Audio!)

by ColdFusion04 [Subscribe]
Sun Jun 26th, 2005 at 22:17:44 PDT

Tonight I hauled all the way over the remote outskirts of Congressman Sensenbrenner's district (Pewaukee, WI) for a Q & A session. It took me 50 minutes to get there through a construction zone on a Sunday night (Which I'm sure was perfectly intentional on his part). And, not surprisingly, there were only 15 people there due to the time and location.

But it was all worth it, because I got to yell, "POINT OF ORDER!" during a lively debate on Gavel-Gate. (Audio below)

Sensenbrenner was unapologetic for his premature gaveling of the June 13th Patriot Act hearing. In fact, he was snippety for almost the entire evening.

Rest of story and audio

Scott Walker's ethics problem

Today's Capital Times editorial has this to say about Scott Walker's treatment of the State Elections Board:

His approach to the investigation of this complaint, which could bring a felony charge, ought to raise serious concerns regarding the man who wants to be governor of Wisconsin. Walker's actions suggest he does not respect the agency that is charged with keeping politics clean and above-board in Wisconsin. Any politician who plays such games, and who displays such disrespect, has an ethics problem that Wisconsinites should take seriously.

Rumsfeld says: You want a timeline?

How about this: 5, 6, 8, 10, 12 years

Rumsfeld said Sunday the insurgency "could go on for any number of years."

"Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years," Rumsfeld said. "Coalition forces, foreign forces are not going to repress that insurgency. We're going to create an environment that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces can win against that insurgency." Detroit Free Press story.

Rumsfeld on Feb. 7. 2003, to U.S. troops in Aviano, Italy: "It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months." More optimistic quotes,

Public doesn't buy Cheney, Condi spin on Iraq

Perhaps President Bush needs to find something new and different to say in his speech to the nation Tuesday night on Iraq. The old stuff isn't working:

"A new ABC News/Washington Post poll out this morning finds that many Americans differ with accounts of the Iraq war offered by two top Administration officials, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"According to ABC News' Jon Cohen, "public views are largely at odds with Cheney's assessment of the strength of the insurgency in Iraq: While Cheney said in an interview in late May that it's 'in its last throes,' only a quarter of Americans agree. And while Rice said success in Iraq 'will be a death knell for terrorism as we know it,' again only about a quarter of the public believes that defeating the insurgents in Iraq would do a great deal to defeat terrorism more generally, beyond Iraq's borders.'"

"These views from a new ABC News/Washington Post poll come amid some broadly negative public views of the war in Iraq. In an ABC/Post poll in early June, 58 percent said they disapproved of the way George W. Bush was handling the situation in Iraq and more than six in 10 felt the U.S. is bogged down there. President Bush plans to address the nation on the war on terrorism and the situation in Iraq tomorrow, the one year anniversary of the handover of power to an interim Iraqi government." -- From The Note, ABC News

Supporting the troops,

shortchanging veterans

Funds for Health Care of Veterans $1 Billion Short
2005 Deficit Angers Senate Republicans, Advocacy Groups

By Thomas B. Edsall
Washington Post Staff Writer

The Bush administration, already accused by veterans groups of seeking inadequate funds for health care next year, acknowledged yesterday that it is short $1 billion for covering current needs at the Department of Veterans Affairs this year.

The disclosure of the shortfall angered Senate Republicans who have been voting down Democratic proposals to boost VA programs at significant political cost. Their votes have brought the wrath of the American Legion, the Paralyzed Veterans of America and other organizations down on the GOP. Story

Big Brother wants you

to be all that you can be

The Defense Department has hired a private marketing firm to create a database of college students and all high school students ages 16 to 18, to help the military identify potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches, the Washington Post reports.

"The program is provoking a furor among privacy advocates,"" Jonathan Krim reports. "The new database will include personal information including birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying."

Why stop there? With the Patriot Act, the government can also find out what books students are reading and make them part of the data base. Someone reading "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" might be interested in flight school, while a student reading "The Monkey Wrench Gang" should probably be detained and tortured, or at least re-educated about environmental issues like global warming.

And wouldn't this data base come in handy if and when the draft is reinstituted? AP poll: 70% oppose draft.

On another note, it shouldn't be too long before the data is compromised and their identities are stolen and sold. Want to be 18 again? Here's your chance. Post story.

UPDATE: Sen. Russ Feingold and others ask Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to knock it off and quit collecting the info on young people. Release

Cloning: Letting the pro-disease,

pro-suffering caucus frame the issue

The pro-disease, pro-suffering, pro-early death, anti-science caucus in the Wisconsin legislature is winning another fight.

Their latest effort: A bill to ban "cloning," which passed the Assembly last week.

Those pushing the bill are the same coalition of narrow-minded zealots who would deny women access to birth control, let alone abortion.

They call themselves "pro-life" and argue that life begins somewhere around the time a couple goes on its first date, or, as Margaret Wertheim wrote in the LA Weekly, "Life begins at 'Want a Cigarette?'"

So, naturally, they oppose embryonic stem cell research.

No matter that such research has the potential, most agree, to find cures for an array of diseases, including Parkinson's, juvenile diabetes, Alzheimer's and more, as well as treatment for people with spinal cord injuries.

Embryonic stem cell research, in the long run, could enhance, improve, prolong and save the lives of people who are now long-suffering. It is not a magical cure-all, but the underlying basic research could have widespread ripple effects we can't even imagine at this point.

But the zealots press on and, as is the case with abortion, have far more influence in the Wisconsin legislature than they should. Two-thirds of the people in Wisconsin support embryonic stem cell research, according to a number of polls. But human cloning is another matter, and the opponents have been able to frame it as a debate on cloning when it is really about stem cell research.

Lawmakers continue to dance to the tune of Pro-Life Wisconsin and Wisconsin Right to Life. But why let them frame the debate? Let's call them what they are: Pro-Disease Wisconsin and Wisconsin Right to Suffer.

Their latest effort is passing a state law to ban cloning -- not just cloning of human beings, but therapeutic cloning, which create more cells for research, not more people.

Supporters of the bill argued that if we allow therapeutic cloning, it will open the door to cloning people, and the next thing you know, we'll have a whole posse of John Gards running around. (Actually, Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton suggested Spencer Black clones, never thinking that then he could run for gov and lt. gov at the same time. See JS blog. )

Matt Sande, legislative director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, said any difference between reproductive and therapeutic cloning is "illusory. The only difference," he said, "lies in the intended use of the embryo."

"There are a lot of people out there who would love to clone babies," State Rep. Steve Kestell, the Republican who sponsored the bill, says. Wis. State Journal story.

That may be true. However, it's already illegal to do that. Alta Charo, professor of law and bioethics at UW-Madison, said the Food and Drug Administration already has acted to restrict reproductive cloning. UW-Madison is implementing a set of ethical guidelines developed by the National Academy of Sciences to regulate the use of cloning in research.

Instead of banning all cloning, Charo said, legislation should focus on reproductive cloning.

"To ask for more," Charo said, "is to halt basic research, is to sacrifice the diabetic children, the paralyzed veterans, the surgically maimed breast cancer victims, the skin- scorched firefighters and the declining elderly of the present for a future that is neither certain nor imminent."

This is not a partisan issue, although most of the opponents of the research are Republicans. Fifty GOP members of the U.S. House defied the President recently to vote for expanded federal funding for stem cell research, for example.

State Rep. Gregg Underheim, a free-thinking Republican, gave the Assembly a chance to make human reproductive cloning illegal, if that's what's really worrying them. He offered an amendment to do that -- to ban cloning people but allow stem cell research using therapeutic cloning to continue. That reasonable amendment failed, to no one's surprise.

As they have in the past, Wis. Manufacturers and Commerce President Jim Haney, Mark Bugher of University Research Park and Tom Still of the Wisconsin Technology Council joined to urge the Legislature not to ban therapeutic cloning. It's noteworthy are that all three are Republicans.

"While we oppose on moral and ethical grounds human embryonic cloning for purposes of reproduction, carefully regulated therapeutic cloning for the purposes of medical research and the development on new diagnostic and therapeutic treatments and drugs is worthwhile and ethically defensible," the three wrote in a memo. "Any effort to ban therapeutic cloning would chill stem cell research in Wisconsin, which pioneered this science, and send the disturbing message that Wisconsin does not welcome responsible, ethical research conducted by our top scientists."

The bill is in the State Senate this week, where the outcome is less certain.

If it does survive the Senate, Gov. Jim Doyle, who is anti-disease, anti-suffering, and anti-early death, says he will veto the bill.

Sunday's editorial in the Journal Sentinel put the issue in understandable terms. In case I haven't, you might want to go there.

JAMIE THOMSON INTERVIEW. MSNBC offers a long Q-A with Jamie Thomson, the UW-Madison researcher who is on the cutting edge of stem cell research. State Rep. Steve Kestell, sponsor of the anti-cloning bill, and WTMJ talker Charlie Sykes, who opposes cloning, want you to read it. So do I. There are quotes that -- lifted out of the interview to stand alone -- can be used to bolster arguments on both sides. But there is also some good general information, including graphics on the first page that show, step by step, how stem cells are harvested. Link.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Adding insult to injury: Jeb Bush

keeps playing politics in Schiavo case

Cartoon by Ann Telnius via Posted by Hello

I said after the autopsy report that we should let Terri Schaivo rest in peace. But Jeb Bush has changed the rules. Here are two reactions:

Leonard Pitts: Jeb Bush's shameful vendetta

By Leonard Pitts Jr.

WASHINGTON - Malcolm X used to speak of the need to get freedom "by any means necessary." Apparently, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush feels the same about the need to get Michael Schiavo.

Mr. Bush directed the state's attorney to open an investigation into whether Mr. Schiavo delayed in calling paramedics when he found his wife, Terri, passed out in their bathroom before sunrise on Feb. 25, 1990. The pretext for this is that over the years, Mr. Schiavo has given conflicting estimates of the time he found his wife. He's said 4:30 a.m., he's said 5 a.m.

So let's see. It's the sleepy hours before dawn. You find your wife passed out. And you check the clock?

No. You panic, you try to revive her, you call 911. That Mr. Schiavo did so in a timely manner has never been at issue before and, in any event, seems established to a medical certainty.

When paramedics arrived at the Schiavo home at 5:52 that morning, they found Mrs. Schiavo in a state of ventricular fibrillation - an irregular heartbeat. You can't live in a state of "v-fib" longer than 15 or 20 minutes.

Nor can it be coincidental that Mr. Bush acted the day after an autopsy report knocked down many of the theories most cherished by those who questioned Mr. Schiavo's stewardship of his wife's medical care.

Had she been abused? No.

Did she react when she "saw" her parents? No. She was blind.

Was there hope of recovery? Dr. Jon Thogmartin, the medical examiner who led the autopsy team, was unequivocal. "No amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons," he said.

But Mr. Bush would have us believe Mr. Schiavo, for some Machiavellian motive yet to be revealed, stood over his stricken wife for an hour before calling help.

What is it with Mr. Bush? Doesn't he have a government to run? Ribbons to cut, backs to slap? Does he need a hobby? Maybe a night job?

You'd think presiding over a state of 17 million citizens would be more than enough to keep a fellow out of the pool halls. But apparently, Mr. Bush has time on his hands.

I can understand the pain of Terri Schiavo's parents and siblings, their inability to believe their daughter irretrievably gone, even their hostility toward the husband who made a decision they would not - likely, could not - make. But Mr. Bush's behavior has been simply inexcusable.

Not that he hasn't had accomplices. He's had plenty. From the Florida Legislature to Congress to the White House, arrogant and opportunistic lawmakers missed not a trick in the effort to substitute their judgment for that of Mrs. Schiavo's doctors and husband. Never mind that they undermined the U.S. Constitution, the judiciary and the whole concept of spousal rights in the process.

Pity Michael Schiavo. He's had his motives and character questioned at every step along the way, had to put up with calumnies flung by religious zealots and wild-eyed conspiracy theorists unable to believe that all he wanted to do was keep a promise to his wife.

But in some ways, the transparent emptiness, the self-evident pettiness, the very personal nature of this latest assault, especially coming when it does and from such a lofty office, makes it the lowest blow of all. It's a punch in the groin after the bell has rung.

Is Florida really such a paradise that the governor has time to indulge a vendetta against a single citizen? Did they clean up the Everglades without telling me? Fix the schools without issuing a memo?

Mr. Bush, if he has a shred of decency, should be ashamed of himself. He should apologize to Mr. Schiavo. And he should leave the poor man alone.

Pitts is a Miami Herald columnist. This column was published in Sunday's Baltimore Sun.

An editorial from the Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon:

Never mind what he says. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush apparently believes, contrary to every shred of physical evidence, that Michael Schiavo is guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Terri.

Not wanting to fall into the trap of long-distance diagnosis based only on watching a video of Governor Bush's news conference, we won't suggest that he's taken leave of his senses. But he has clearly succumbed to the Dark Side of the Political Force, and the result is hideous to behold.
Moments after the Pinellas County medical examiner finished delivering an exhaustive autopsy report last week definitively concluding that Terri Schiavo suffered severe brain damage with no evidence of other injuries, Bush called for a new investigation of her death. The governor understands full well that his every utterance in the Schiavo case gives him priceless national exposure. He now wants a prosecutor to look into the 15-year-old circumstances surrounding Schiavo's initial collapse.

Inspector Bush wants to know why Terri's husband, Michael, seems fuzzy about when he called 911 upon discovering his unconscious wife on the floor outside their bedroom Feb. 25, 1990. Michael Schiavo insists he summoned paramedics immediately, at about 4:30 or 5 a.m. Records indicate the 911 call was placed at about 5:40 a.m.

This discrepancy might be worth revisiting if Bush had a scintilla of new information to suggest that previous analyses of the timeline were inadequate. But he doesn't have diddly.

Michael Schiavo has never claimed to be certain of the exact time he called 911. He wasn't wearing a watch. He was understandably frazzled and under enormous stress.

More important, if Michael Schiavo really had waited between 40 and 70 minutes before seeking help, medical experts have consistently testified that there is little chance Terri would have survived. Last week's autopsy results only strengthen that assessment.

Finally, and Governor Bush knows this better than most, these circumstances have been examined repeatedly during extensive litigation, including a medical malpractice suit. No evidence has ever surfaced suggesting that Michael Schiavo delayed seeking medical help for his wife.

In fact, the actual evidence in this case has exonerated Michael Schiavo of the vicious accusations leveled by Terri's parents and Bush's supporters. Those baseless allegations include charges that Michael strangled, beat or otherwise abused Terri. If anyone is guilty of abuse in this case, it's Governor Bush, whose relentless persecution of Michael Schiavo has been nothing short of indecent.

The only potential crime under Florida law for which the statute of limitations hasn't already expired in the Schiavo case is intentional homicide - first-degree murder. But Bush disingenuously says he isn't accusing Michael Schiavo of any wrongdoing, just seeking answers to lingering questions.

Yeah, right. Here's another lingering question: Will this shameful political grandstanding hurt Jeb Bush's aspirations to higher office? If life were fair, it should.


GOP Sen. Hagel: We're losing in Iraq;

Legion members give him a standing O

The Omaha World-Herald reports:

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. - More than 200 Nebraska American Legion members, who have seen war and conflict themselves, fell quiet here Saturday as Sen. Chuck Hagel bluntly explained why he believes that the United States is losing the war in Iraq.

It took 20 minutes, but it boiled down to this:

The Bush team sent in too few troops to fight the war leading to today's chaos and rising deaths of Americans and Iraqis. Terrorists are "pouring in" to Iraq.

Basic living standards are worse than a year ago in Iraq. Civil war is perilously close to erupting there. Allies aren't helping much. The American public is losing its trust in President Bush's handling of the conflict.

And Hagel's deep fear is that it will all plunge into another Vietnam debacle, prompting Congress to force another abrupt pullout as it did in 1975.

"What we don't want to happen is for this to end up another Vietnam," Hagel told the legionnaires, "because the consequences would be catastrophic."

It would be far worse than Vietnam, says Hagel, a twice-wounded veteran of that conflict, which killed 58,000 Americans. . .

. . ."The point is, we're going to have to make some changes or we will lose, we will lose in Iraq," he told the legionnaires.

At the same time, he said, he wants President Bush to win, and he believes that the United States cannot pull out anytime soon.

The legionnaires gave him a standing ovation at the end of his speech. Carl Marks of Omaha, a Korean War veteran, said: "It sounds like he's conflicted . . . like a lot of us."

Quote, unquote

If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents."

--Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., whose district includes the site of the former World Trade Center, after a Republican said the World Trade Center victims wanted a "yes" vote on a flag-burning amendment.

Falk Talk: Watching the little things

Dane County Exec Kathleen Falk celebrates her 54th birthday today -- how else but with a fundraiser?

The e-mail invitation is noteworthy in that it takes an extra precaution against getting into legal trouble with elections officials.

Anyone who's ever been in a campaign that caught heat for inadvertently mailing, phoning or e-mailing a government office will understand and appreciate this disclaimer:

Please Note: This list has been designed not to include government e-mail addresses. If you receive this at a government office we apologize. Please inform us right away so we can remove that address and, if you wish, please provide a nongovernmental e-mail address to which we can send FalkTalk. Thanks again.

For years, candidates mailing invitations to lobbyists during the period when lobbyists can't legally donate have included a note to say something like, "We thought some of your clients might be interested in this; if so, please share this information with them."

The difference, of course, is that candidates are mailing the lobbyist list on purpose.

Born on the 4th of July: The long journey home

Ron Kovic is a Marine veteran of Vietnam who has been paralyzed from the chest down since 1968, when he was wounded in combat.

His book, Born on the 4th of July, and movie of the same name brought the war and its aftermath home to millions of Americans.

In an introduction to a new edition of his book, Kovic relates his experience to what is happening today, in Iraq and in U.S. veterans hospitals:

"I have watched in horror the mirror image of another Vietnam unfolding. So many similarities, so many things said that remind me of that war thirty years ago which left me paralyzed for the rest of my life. Refusing to learn from our experiences in Vietnam, our government continues to pursue a policy of deception, distortion, manipulation, and denial, doing everything it can to hide from the American people their true intentions and agenda in Iraq. The flag-draped caskets of our dead begin their long and sorrowful journeys home hidden from public view, while the Iraqi casualties are not even considered worth counting--some estimate as many as 100,000 have been killed so far.

"The paraplegics, amputees, burn victims, the blinded and maimed, shocked and stunned, brain damaged and psychologically stressed, now fill our veterans hospitals. Most of them were not even born when I came home wounded to the Bronx V.A. in 1968. The same lifesaving medical-evacuation procedures that kept me alive in Vietnam are bringing home a whole new generation of severely maimed from Iraq.

"Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which afflicted so many of us after Vietnam, is just now beginning to appear among soldiers recently returned from the current war. For some, the agony and suffering, the sleepless nights, anxiety attacks, and awful bouts of insomnia, loneliness, alienation, anger, and rage, will last for decades, if not their whole lives. They will be trapped in a permanent nightmare of that war, of killing another man, a child, watching a friend die ... fighting against an enemy that can never be seen, while at any moment someone--a child, a woman, an old man, anyone--might kill you. These traumas return home with us and we carry them, sometimes hidden, for agonizing decades. They deeply impact our daily lives, and the lives of those closest to us."

Read it all at

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Three things about Iraq

Yes, it's part of that great liberal media conspiracy, but the New York Times nails it in an editorial today, "Three things about Iraq."

1. The war has nothing to do with Sept. 11.

2. The war has not made the world, or this nation, safer from terrorism.

3. If the war is going according to plan, someone needs to rethink the plan.

The entire editorial.

Can you say lawsuit?

"We want [Gov. Jim] Doyle to instruct them to fire Barrows.-- Assembly Colleges Committee Chair Robin Kreibich, on the saga of Paul Barrows, a UW-Madison administrator who received salary while on a seven-month leave of absence, then returned Monday to a $150,000 a year job before being demoted to a $72,881 salary and being placed on paid leave on Thursday. He'll be on leave while the university investigates conduct that could lead to his firing.

"I understand, but respectfully disagree with, those who are calling for the immediate termination of Dr. Barrows without due process. ... the university must follow very specific rules regarding the protection of an employee's rights."--UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley. See Wiley's statement from Thursday:

Wiley is saying what should be obvious even to the most hard-headed legislators. Fire Barrows now, without due process, and the UW is inviting the mother of all lawsuits. Far better to have the trial before the hanging.

Keeping gays in their place

From T-shirt Posted by Hello

OK, now that we've got your attention, there is a very informative piece from, the news service sponsored by the Pew Foundation, on the Alliance Defense Fund -- the evangelical law firm retained by Assembly Republicans to make sure no gay state employees get health benefits. It's worth a read just on the theory that you should know your enemy.

"The Alliance Defense Fund has been very effective at finding local conflicts that symbolize a bigger fight and using those local conflicts as an opportunity to make a larger statement," said Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar for the First Amendment Center. They have become the "go-to organization" for religious conservative activists, Haynes said.

Some of us have suggested that the firm may be a little far out there, given that Alan Sears, the group's leader, has suggested that cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants may be gay. Earlier post Hence the illustration above.

Time capsule: "Aid and comfort to the enemy"

From Eric Alterman's "When Presidents Lie"... . In the chapter on LBJ and the Gulf of Tonkin, and how Sen. J. William Fulbright was treated when he started going after President Lyndon Johnson for the lies he told which led to escalation in Vietnam:

"In April [Fulbright] went before the Newspaper Publishers Association and announced his fear of America's "arrogance of power," comparing the nation's "overextension of power and mission to [that] which brought ruin to ancient Greece, Napoleonic France, and to Nazi Germany."

(This prompted Senator Goldwater to call for the Arkansan's resignation, over his deliberately having given "aid and comfort to the enemy.")

Which brings us to ...

Karl Rove, 2005, speaking about Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, for using a Nazi comparison in describing abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay:

"Has there ever been a more revealing moment this year? Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."

David Corn on Rove: "Not just a hypocrite, but a thug."


And, finally, a column by Mark Leibovich in the Washington Post, "The Comparison That Ends the Conversation,"listing some of the other times the Nazi comparison has been used in the Senate.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Sensenbrenner town hall; y'all come

Big Jim Sensenbrenner (Big F. Jim doesn't have the right ring), champion of the Patriot Act, the flag-burning amendment, cracking down on the judiciary, and most other schemes to limit our civil liberties, will be in Wisconsin for a town meeting Sunday night.

Here's your chance to sound off:

The Town Hall is open to the public, but it is especially important for people in the 5th Congressional District to attend and tell their Big Jim their opinions on the PATRIOT Act.

It's at 7 p.m. at Pewaukee City Hall, W240 N3065 Pewaukee Road, Pewaukee, WI 53072.

Of course, if he doesn't like what you have to say, he's been known to just end a meeting, pick up his gavel and go home, as he did in Congress on June 10.

Vote Mofo

Mofo merchandise Posted by Hello

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's "Adios, mofo" comment into an open microphone has spawned a whole line of products using variatons on the theme. This is part of the get-out-the-vote effort.

Sorting out the governor's race:

Spencer Black vs. Mike Ellis?

State Rep. Spencer Black, the Madison Democrat who says he's being encouraged to run for governor as an independent, sounds like someone who is a long ways from doing that.

The Capital Times reported Thursday that some unidentified liberals, unhappy with Gov. Jim Doyle, had asked Black to run, and he was considering it. I predicted that Black was smarter than that -- and too good a Democrat -- and would not want to help elect a Republican governor by taking votes from Doyle.

Friday's Wisconsin State Journal reports:

"Black acknowledged any move against his fellow Madison Democrat could hand Republicans a political wedge they could use to regain the governor's office in 2006, a critical factor he said he needs to consider.

"I need to ask, 'What is the best way to advance the causes and issues I'm concerned about?' " Black said. "I'm not at all convinced that running for governor is the best way to do that."

Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton, whose core constituency is many of the same liberals who think Doyle is too moderate, also spoke up.

Lawton said Democrats' top priority should be to take back some legislative seats. Republicans control the Senate 19-14 and the Assembly 60-33.

"Both (Black) and we would be in a far better position to govern well if we had a whole group of legislators like him," said Lawton, who praised Black for advocating for stronger environmental protection, collective bargaining rights and women's reproductive rights.

Meanwhile, some moderate Republicans (Didn't think there were any, did you?) are telling State Sen. Mike Ellis of Neenah that he should run for governor. Bob Williams and Bill Kraus, who engineered the stunning Lee Dreyfus upset in 1978, think Ellis is the kind of candidate who could do it. Even Ed Garvey and Mike McCabe, who don't like anybody very much, said good things about Ellis. Isthmus Editor Marc Eisen promotes the idea in a column.

YESTERDAY'S XOFF POST: "Dissident lefties look for spoiler to run against Doyle as independent."

UPDATE: Conservative blogger Dennis York is having none of this Ellis for governor talk. Read his post, "Mr.Irrelevant: Mike Ellis Battles Oblivion."

Free plugs

Three items of note for Milwaukeeans in the next few days:

MEET THE GOVERNOR. Gov. Jim Doyle holds a town hall meeting to discuss the state budget on Friday, June 24, from 1:45 to 3 p.m. at West Milwaukee Middle School gymnasium, 5104 W. Greenfield Ave. To reserve a seat or learn more, contact the governor's Milwaukee Office: e-mail or call (414) 227-1883.

MEET THE POLICE CHIEF. Milwaukee Police Chief Nannette Hegerty is the featured guest at a special luncheon in Milwaukee on Monday, June 27, at 11:45 a.m., at the University Club, 924 E Wells St. Cost is $19. RSVP to Jim Greer: or 608-850-6884.

VOTE FOR THE XOFF FILES. This blog has been nominated (God knows by whom) for Milwaukee blog of the week on MKEOnline. If elected, I will not serve, but in case you'd like to vote, here's the link.

Jensen didn't invent system,

but took it to new heights

Charlie Sykes has big news. Scott Jensen was not the first Assembly speaker to do political work or use his caucus staff to help in campaigns. Tom Loftus, a Democrat, did it too, Sykes reports in excruciating detail on his blog, Sykes Writes.

He accuses me of having a selective memory, of pretending Tom Loftus or Wally Kunicki or Shirley Krug or others in the Democratic leadership never did political work or used their staffs for campaign help.

I don't dispute that. It was an open secret for years, to anyone working in or covering the Capitol for the news media, that the caucuses did political work, especially at campaign time.

So, Charlie asks, what is the big deal now all of a sudden?

The caucus scandal became a scandal because the leadership in both houses took it to the extreme.

There is a difference between shaking down lobbyists, as some legislators are accused of, and helping some candidate in the hinterlands run for office.

And there is a huge difference between a legislator raising money, or a caucus staffer helping plan a fundraiser or prepare a list for the legislator to call, and putting someone on the state payroll to the tune of $65,000 a year to do nothing but raise political money full-time. That's what Scott Jensen, Steve Foti, and Sherry Schultz are accused of. They don't even deny it; they just say that was part of their jobs.

I can tell the difference between that and whatever Tom Loftus did.

If he levels with himself, Sykes can, too.

Jensen didn't invent the system, but he took it to new heights.

Here's my earlier post on the subject, which set Sykes off.

Paul Ryan's risky scheme

The New York Times called it "a sketchy proposal" to change Social Security.

USA Today's editorial called it "a shell game" and said that "for every one part substance, the plan contains nine parts gimmick."

Another USA Today story said it was a victory for the "free lunch bunch" in the Republican Congress. "You must eat your spinach before having dessert, and this plan only offers dessert: the personal retirement accounts," Rep Jim Kolbe , an Arizona Republican, said.

". . . critics say there is not enough money to make the plan viable," The Washington Post reported. " About 130 million Americans who pay into Social Security and are under 55 would be entitled to personal accounts. Excluding interest owed on borrowed Social Security funds, the cash surplus from Social Security taxes this year will leave enough for an average of $434 available for each account."

But Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who is one of the sponsors of this half-baked scheme, accentuates the positive in an opinion column, also in USA Today. (Was there anything but Social Security news in the paper on Thursday?)

It's all about using the Social Security surplus only for Social Security, Ryan says, and not using it to plug other budget holes or deficits. The money will be safely invested in Treasury bonds, Ryan says. Maybe, just to be doubly sure, those bonds could be put into Al Gore's Social Security lockbox.

Ryan at least is out front on this issue and willing to take some risk and some heat. Meanwhile, Rep. Mark Green, the Green Bay Republican who's busy running for governor, hasn't heard yet that Social Security is under discussion this year. Green has had not a word to say.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Is Wisconsin becoming a theocracy?

Posted by Hello United States Christian flag

I was tempted to say, "God only knows."

But that would be wrong.

Here is Jim Rowen's take on the subject, from an opinion piece in the Capital Times:

Republican leaders in the Wisconsin Legislature, taking their cues from Wisconsin Right-to-Life and other powerful organizations on the far right, are leading the state toward a fundamentalist Christian theocracy and away from the state and federal constitutions. . .

Only the veto power held by Gov. Jim Doyle and perhaps by the courts . . . stand between the free-thinking and open society we know, with a strong First Amendment separating church and state, and the eradication of America's tradition of religious tolerance.

Insanity in action -- again

As I pointed out the other day, Albert Einstein said it: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." What a waste of time. It's a good thing the state has no real problems that need attention.

THURSDAY, June 23, 2005, 4:42 p.m.
Another voter ID bill sent to Doyle

Madison - The Republican-controlled state Assembly sent Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle a bill today that would require voters to show a photo ID at the polls, marking the third time in two years the Legislature has passed such a measure.

The free market at work

A Glowing Reception
Bush travels to nuke plant to tout nuke subsidies, is well-received

Wednesday, President Bush became the first commander in chief in 26 years to visit a nuclear power plant in the U.S. (The last time, you may recall, was when President Carter visited Three Mile Island after the accident there. Good times, good times ...)

Bush used the occasion to state unequivocally, "It is time for this country to start building nuclear power plants again." It's been more than a quarter-century since the last nuke plant was approved and built. What's the impediment?

"The last effort at building reactors was such a catastrophe that no industry nor Wall Street financier is going to touch this technology without a guarantee that taxpayers will be on the hook," said Paul Gunter of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. To that end, Bush's much-touted energy bill offers the industry millions in taxpayer dollars, in the form of tax subsidies, loan guarantees, and "risk insurance," whereby taxpayers rather than private investors assume the risks of investment. Behold, the power of the free market!

--From Go there for sources and related articles

Anatomy of Durbin's political firestorm

Here's a fascinating look at how the conservative spin center and message machine went into action to make Sen. Richard Durbin's life a living hell after he got carried away with his rhetoric. Political Wire.

Chicago Tribune story explains how the GOP did it.

Now let's see how well the left responds when Karl Rove goes way over the top. Washington Post column on Rove saying liberals sympathize with the enemy.


Dissident lefties look for spoiler

to challenge Doyle as independent

So the murmurs and mutters about a left-wing challenge to Gov. Jim Doyle finally are said aloud. State Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, says some mysterious, unidentified people have approached him about running against Doyle.

Black won't say who they are, except that they are "people who are reformers, who are unhappy with Jim Doyle's record on a number of issues, and who believe that we've lost our way as a state." [ Ed Garvey, Mike McCabe, the People's Legislature, and who else?]

And what better place to plant the story than the Capital Times, a frequent critic of Doyle on the left?

Interestingly, Black says he is being encouraged to run as an independent, not as a Democrat, even though he has long-established Democratic credentials.

What does that say? It says the campaign would not be about actually trying to win the governorship and change the direction Wisconsin is going. Spencer Black is no Jesse Ventura, although they have the same hairdo. (That's a joke, Spencer.)

It means the disgruntled Democrats (or whatever they are) will not make an effort to turn the Democratic Party of Wisconsin leftward, because the way to do that would be to challenge Doyle in the primary.

It means that the Deep Throat lefties are looking for a candidate to be a spoiler -- a Ralph Nader who might siphon off enough votes to cost Doyle the election.

If they don't like the direction we're headed now, wait until they get to know Gov. Mark Green or Gov. Scott Walker. Four years of one of them, with a Republican legislature, and you won't recognize this state.

David Callender's story does point out that, "Doyle has used his veto pen to block Republican efforts to limit abortion rights and access to contraceptives, impose new restrictions on voting, and bar civil unions for gays and lesbians." (Not to mention concealed carry, the property tax freeze, and a dozen others.)

Spencer Black is a reasonable, decent person who is in politics for all the right reasons -- not for personal gain or fame, but to move a political agenda that improves the quality of people's lives in Wisconsin.

He says he hasn't even started to assess whether to run for governor. When he does, he is likely to come to the conclusion that helping to elect a conservative Republican as governor in 2006 will not make this a better place to live, and will do real damage to many of the people Black got into politics to help. And the Capital Times will probably swallow hard and agree that the thing to do is to try to move Doyle to the left, not elect a Republican. Capital Times story.

My earlier take: Disgruntled Dems should recognize Doyle is their last, best and only defense.

UPDATE: "Sorting out the governor's race: Spencer Black vs. Mike Ellis?" Link.

A conservative view on flag burning

This from Owen, at Boots & Sabers, one of Wisconsin's conservative blogs:

A constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to ban flag burning passed the House yesterday, and congressional leaders said it has a strong chance to clear the Senate for the first time, sending it to the states for ratification.

Yes. I oppose this. Our flag is a very important symbol of our country and deserves the same respect that one would show our country. At the same time, respect for our liberty is an order of magnitude more important than any symbol.

I support the right of anyone to burn, tear, shred, or piss on our flag. Liberty has a price. This is a small part of the sum.

Check out the reaction from his readers, too.

Cracking down on flag burning; it's about time

Well, praise the Lord. The House of Representatives, led by our own F. Jim Sensenbrenner, has voted once again to do something about the outbreak of flag-burning in this country.

I don't know about your neighborhood, but there are parts of Milwaukee I hate to walk through, for fear of getting scorched by one of those flaming flags. They seem to be everywhere. And the closer we get to the 4th of July, the more flags they burn.

It's a relief to know we are on the way toward fixing that -- if the U.S. Senate can get its head out of its behind, get its priorities straight, and do the right thing for once.

The House has voted for a constitutional amendment on flag burning seven times now, but the Senate has never given it the two-thirds vote it needs. Maybe this is the time. Then, all of the states would get to have a referendum on flag burning, giving the yahoos something to get excited about when they go to the polls, besides voting against gays, poor people, liberals and other assorted trash.

It's the will of the people, Sensenbrenner says, and, "While our courts have authority to interpret the constitution, the American people should and must have the ultimate authority to amend it."

That "majority rules" theory usually isn't applied to the constitution, but it does have some appeal. Maybe we could have a constitutional amendment preventing anyone from interfering with stem cell research, since a large majority supports that. Unlike flag-burning, some people are actually doing stem cell research.

Wisconsin Republicans Mark (The Man Who Would be Governor) Green and Paul (Who Would be Senator) Ryan both voted with Sensenbrenner for the resolution. Tom Petri, who frequently seems to be the only Republican in our delegation with a conscience, voted no, along with all four Democrats -- Baldwin, Moore, Obey, and Kind. Story.

If the Supreme Court hadn't ruled that a Texas law against flag burning was unconstitutional, there wouldn't be any need for the constitutional amendment.

Just to make sure the judicial bases were covered, though, Sensenbrenner was one of a small group of Congressmen who had a private meal and meeting last week with all nine Supreme Court justices, a move Roll Call termed "highly unusual." Roll Call said the only agenda appeared to be "creating better relations between the two branches of federal government."

"Despite the strong possibility that the first vacancy in 11 years looms and a host of other critical issues are facing the federal judiciary, the justices hosted the meeting, although attendees said they were not seeking to make a pitch on any particular topic. Instead, lawmakers said, it was merely an attempt at getting to know each other better,"Roll Call said.

One smart move in that direction was leaving the two Texans, Rep. Tom DeLay and Sen. John Cronyn, at home. Both have threatened to impeach judges, burn down the federal courthouses, or something like that if judges don't shape up. (Do we need a constitutional amendment on threatening judges?)

Anyway, among those attending, besides F. Jim, were Sens. Reid, McConnell, Frist, Durbin, and Specter.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Quote, unquote

"Adios, mofo."-- Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), quoted by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, picked up by a live microphone after being interviewed by KTRK-TV.

"The station aired the clip, and included the fact that Perry called later to apologize." -- From Political Wire

Sunshine patriots get new hats

The desert camouflage hat, worn by our troops in Iraq!

The hat (available in S, M, L, and XL) will cost you $22.95.
The irony (XXL only) is free.

-- GREG BEATO at Wonkette. (Click here for ordering info)

Posted by Hello

Just doing our jobs, Jensen & Co. say;

raising money full-time on taxpayers' tab

You have to give them credit for trying, I guess, and for doing exhaustive research and making creative arguments.

But the latest claim by lawyers for Scott Jensen, Steve Foti, and Sherry Schultz , the Republicans charged with felonies in the caucus scandal -- that the three were just doing their jobs -- is simply incredible. WisPolitics story.

Jensen was the Assembly speaker, Foti the GOP majority leader, and Schultz an Assembly staffer. They were indicted in 2002, and have been trying to postpone the inevitable ever since. So far that has worked pretty well. October 18 will be the three-year anniversary of their indictments, and a trial is nowhere in sight.

Foti has left the legislature, and Schultz is off the state payroll. But Jensen continues on his merry way, as a key member of the Joint Finance Committee that put the state budget together.

Jensen simply has no shame. The latest argument from his lawyer goes something like this: "Jensen, Foti, and Schultz were just doing what they were supposed to be doing -- that part of their jobs was to elect more Republicans to office. So of course they were doing some campaign work in their Capitol offices. What's your point, prosecutor?"

The basis for that claim is a 1986 report prepared for Common Cause in Wisconsin by Gail Shea, a former employee of the State Elections Board. Shea's report says that "Legislative campaign committees hire consultants for a variety of purposes . . . In some cases the consultants are nationally known political experts, but most often they are politically active individuals from Wisconsin or legislative staffers, either currently on the state payroll or on leave from their legislative jobs."

"It is important to keep in mind that the legislative campaign committees claim they fill a role very similar to a political party," Shea's report says. "Their purpose is to elect partisans to their respective house of the Legislature."

Jensen's lawyer claims that means there are no limits on what an elected official can do at taxpayer expense, apparently.

Lest we forget, one of the felony charges against Jensen, Foti, and Schultz is that Schultz worked full-time, on the state payroll, paid $65,000 a year by taxpayers, and her full-time job was to raise money for Republicans. Jensen hired her and stashed her in the Republican caucus office, on Foti's payroll.

That arrangement went on for almost four years, so taxpayers paid Schultz $250,000 in salary, plus a great benefit package probably worth another $50,000 over that period. That is not penny ante corner-cutting. That is grand larceny.

It is quite a leap from Shea's memo to the conclusion that it would be legal to operate a full-time political fundraising operation in your Capitol office, at taxpayer expense. If that is legal, why on earth does any campaign or political party pay anyone? They could all be state employees, merrily working to elect their bosses or others in their party. That's their job, right -- elect more Rs or Ds.

Jensen, Foti and Schultz made much the same argument in a brief filed in December 2002 -- and failed. Story. The only thing that has changed since then is that someone dug up the Shea memo in the Legislative Reference Bureau.

But if attorney general opinions don't have the force of law, it doesn't seem like a Common Cause memo will either.

I am beginning to wonder whether any of the caucus defendants -- Jensen, Foti, Schultz, ex-State Rep. Bonnie Ladwig, or ex-State Sens. Chuck Chvala and Brian Burke will come to trial in my lifetime -- or in theirs. The public has mostly forgotten what they were ever charged with to begin with. Presumably, although the wheels of justice grind excruciatingly slowly, they will turn some day.

They say that justice delayed is justice denied. In the caucus scandal, it is the defendants who delay, delay and delay. In Jensen's case, it is the public, and his constituents, who are being denied the opportunity to find out whether they reelected a felon to the Assembly in 2002 and 2004.

Original criminal complaint.

Latest filing

UPDATE: Jensen didn't invent system, just took it to new heights. Link to later post.